tv [untitled] September 29, 2012 6:30am-7:00am PDT
samurai garden is an example of quintessential set before world war ii, both of my cultures and everything i wanted to do and taught me what it meant to be japanese. that's taking liberty to saying taught me what it means to be japanese. i can't know exactly what it means to be japanese but it gave me a culture. a culture i realize that was a lot japanese. even though i hadn't grownup in it and i was as american as apple pie in so many ways that i started to learn more about the culture and i thought, i'm more japanese than chinese in many ways. this book gave that to me. that was the greatest gift of the samurai's garden. that and the fact that somehow people kept reading it. it was the book i was worried about and i had sent it to my editor and she called.
i'm telling you the gossip stuff now. i think in a way that's more interesting. i was very nervous because i didn't know how she would receive this book. she called and said to me, well, it's very different. [laughter] and then nobody said anything. i didn't say anything and she didn't i didn't know what to say different good or bad so just with quiet. she said, i think this about part of -- she talked to me about story lines. i realized wow, they are going to publish it. and we talked about it as we would talk about a man script that would be accepted. i'm thinking, i can't believe they are going to accept this book. it was a crazy writing experience because of all the books i had written half the book. i had half the book to write
before it was due in terms of a contract. we sign a contract and they put a due date on it that was the only book i felt i had to get in on time. since then i have not done it since. i tell everybody -- in my second book i thought you had to get the book right when they say you need. you should, i shouldn't say to you aspiring writers out there. i had a month and a half to write half of a book. you know in the first half took a year and a half. i was teaching simultaneous, i was writing on the weekends and trying to write as fast as i could but it was researching. i was trying to learn the culture and understand it enough so it would be part of the book. i began -- i rented a place in lake tahoe and sat there for the entire month of august. it was september ninth or something. i had summer break from teaching and i just sat down from the
time it was morning to the time it was cocktail hour. i always say this because cocktail hour got earlier everyday because it was so hard to write this book when i had to write it in a certain period of time like that. what i had done finally, in the end, when it's done i thought it was the perfect situation. i had to be in that situation to write this particular book because that was the situation that the character steven was in. he was in a place he didn't want to be. he was far from people he wanted to be close to. he was not in his territory. that's how i felt writing by myself, far from home, not wanting to do it everyday from the time i got up to the time i got drunk but i did. and the second half was written all in a month. and it worked for this book. i can't say it might work for
every other book it probably wouldn't work for any other book. i started this book in third person and thought for sure as a young man's voice in first person. i went in third person and i was 5 pages in and said, this doesn't sound right or read right, something's wrong. i went back because i learned from my first book, you have to think about voice and where it's coming from. i went back and put it in first person and realized it started to work. what i did was put it in the journal entries and it became what i should have known from the beginning because a began my colleges career as a film major wanting to make films not knowing i wanted to tell stories on the page and not on the screen. what i did was a stepped back and this is something one of my
group members always tells me. where's at camera? what's happening? see from the camera's ankle. i realized he was too far away from everything. this book was different than the first book because in the first book i had so many voices and this book everything had to be seen from steven's point of view. when i narrowed it down the story told itself much the process of a writer is elizabeth said, you cannot be afraid to make mistakes. that's the writing process. we are making a lot of mistakes i am constantly rewriting and looking at something and saying, i could say it with less words. i could look at something and say, she would kill me if i did
this and i would change it. there are all the things. it's a constant process. no book falls on to the page and the words don't just fall on the page. they may fall on the page and you delete half and start over. you take the one line that works and write around it. that's basically a lot of the way i write. i want to read you some and i guess i should read a little and i want to open up for questions about this book or the other books or what i'm doing now or not doing now. basically, for me i think samurai's garden another reason why love this book. everybody says, what's your favorite book? i think, they are like kids. you wouldn't say johnny is my favorite son. we all books at the time we need to write that book.
it's hard to be an author because you have an audience and they want you to write particular books. if you don't write the book they want you to write then it's something else. but all the books are different in that way. because samurai's garden gave me the japanese culture and to a large extent samurai's garden taught me how to write. how to write in a way that i don't think i knew as well when i wrote women of the silk. it's processes like that is how i judge each book not so much is, that my best book? is that the best story? but it has to do with, what did i learn from writing that book. i have a friend who is a writer for 3 years trying to finish a novel. sent me an e mail.
think when i first started writing we didn't have e mail. it's scary because you think you are getting e mail from a friend saying, i'm done and 2 days later you get another one and it says i'm trashing it. i'm thinking how can you write a book for 2 years and trash it. >> i put it in a box and stied it with a string and put it in a closet. that's the last i will see of it. i was thinking until she's gone and somebody gets it out and sells it for a million dollars. of course you are in the situation of you don't know what to say because we have all felt that way. there is a time in the writing process where you are saying, this is not good or not good enough, i could get rid of this now or you are done and you are thinking it doesn't quite work.
what am i not doing right and can i salvage it or not. may be this si writing exercise that took 5 years. all the things that are going through or mind. i wrote her and i said, i thought about this not only for her but for my own sake it was a little selfish. i wrote back and said to her, thinking back on all the books i have written and okay, not every book is the same book you would write now if you did them but why did i write that book at that time. i said, i think the reason sometimes we write books is to get to the next one. and may be, may be this book you had to write even though nobody was going to see it but for yourself. i thought, should i send this? i'm being presumptuous saying you have to write this book to get to the next which will be
better. i thought, we are writers, we know how it is i can send this. so what if she doesn't talk to me for a year she will get over it. i sent it. within an hour an e mail came back and all it was was, you are right. she finished the next one. the bulk of the first draft in 6 months. so, you know, i mean, who knows. so i felt this way to a large extent. it was not easy it was hard in a lot of ways because of the culture and the story and because of getting it right but i thought it helped me as a writer. so i will sip not gin and read a section and i will throw it open and see if you can ask me something that you might be interested in instead of hearing me speak. whoa has read this book? do i need to explain?
no. [laughter] i was -- i had written, 3 quarters of the book and i was getting tired of only seeing from the point of view of steven. sometimes you get bored with your own character and your own voice because it was coming from his point of view only i thought how would i get another voice in here. this is the fun part of write itting makes you creative. when you get in a jam you think of things you might not normally do. i thought i need to get other voices in here and i will do this. when sachy goes up to the village. the leper lady when she starts telling him the story her voice come in. i thought to myself, thank god. i could write a section in her
voice and not only be in his voice. those things don't come until you need to work them out. that stumped me for awhile and came to with when she and the other villagers who contract lepercy decide to kill themselves to not bring shame to the village. and she can't do it. the man servant who's story that steven slowly finds out rescues her. >> even now i feel the cold waves pushing and pulling against my legs as a stood knee deep in the ocean. there was a flock of birds flying over head. their voices leading us on. as the water lapped around me i saw a man the father of a school friend walk straight into the ocean he never turned back.
one moment he was there and in the next he was swaulode by the sea. one woman took a knife and slashed her wrists. i remember how the bloodstreamed down her arms. she turned toward me with a strange smile handed me her knife. it felt so light. i looked down and saw it covered with the woman's blood. i wanted to scream and saw i lost my voice. don't be frightened, the old woman said, find the knife and end your misery return honor to your family. i know i didn't have the courage of the woman dying before me. when she reached toward me i pushed her back and she fell to
our knees crying out for me to end her life as the waves washed over her. i began running. i ran and ran away from the beach and all the death and dying. now i don't remember what i was thinking. the greatest honor i could have given my family was that was my death and i ran from it. i was frightened for not fulfilling my obligation yet there was a voice in me that told me to escape. i ran away as if it were the diseased one. at night i hid among the trees along the stretch of road. it was cold that first night alone. i was hungry. i began to think that may be death was a better way after all. i never before felt the black void of abandonment and i knew no one would look for me. as far as my family i ran with
the others that morning. everything had been planned. we each left notes for our families hoping we would honor them in the other world i said good night to my family for the last time knows i would no longer be a burden. the only way to honor them to allow them to think i was dead. the following morning in the woods i was awaken by the sound of foot steps. if i moved i would draw attention to where i was. so i lay silent and still. hoping whoever or whatever it was would move on. i stared up through the leaves to a blue sky. it appeared sharp and clear it seemed unreal. when i heard the steps closer i closed my eyes and prayed to the gods. when i opened my eyes i heard breathing and feel the warmth of
another body it was so close to me. i heard his voice call out. sachy, it's me matzu, let me help you. i thought i died and went to the other wonder. matzu? spilling up from the leaves like a wounded animal. i forgot everything even the shame of allowing him to see me. he began to laugh is that you or the fox cot. it was the first time he joked with me he had been so quiet. it wasn't the time for laughter i was tired and hungry if i had been the god i might have been made food and water appear. it was my good fortunate that matzu found me. i had been looking for you all night. are there others? i could barely get the words
out. they think you have gone to a better world how do you find me. he smaled. he opened [inaudible] and took out a bottle of green tea. the tea tasted cold and bitter i had never been more aggressively for anything else in my life. he brought rice cakes and dried seaweed. when i finished i bowed and asked, how do you know i was here? tomoko. what about tomoko i asked? matzu gathered the food and wrapped it up. i followed you and the others down to the beach yesterday morning. i wondered if you might find your way to peace. i couldn't, i began to cry, turning away in shame. matzu lned over and smelled a sweat, it takes greater courage
to live. [applause] >> i'm going to throw it open now to questions. so you might direct me as to what you might want to know about. as we are taping this with sfgov tv i will ask you to ask your question into the microphone so they can pick it up. and you, too will be on tv. now nobody wants to. i will ask a requequestion, wha you working on now? >> does that sound planted? it wasn't. i just finished a monster of a book it's a huge book, set in japan and covers the earth from 1939 and 1966 about 2 brothers and the title is a street of a
thousand blossoms. if you haven't noticed we are talking about themes that run through my book. one of the things i like a lot is exploring subcultures. the lepercy. the silk working women. i like to write about groups of people who persevere and make a life on their own aside from what the general culture is doing. i find that i don't consciously sit down and do that but it happens. in this particular book something that has fascinated me is sumo and sumo wrestlers and how they get so big and what it's like in their culture. one of the brothers becomes an sumo and that's why it's a big book! [laughter].
>> do you think that -- being a woman who is in women have been oppressed -- i don't know if they are now or not, dou think that has stimulated you in your writing coming out of that? you specifically and in general, do you feel like a lot of women have been stimulated by being part of an oppressed class? >> good question. >> very much so. i will try to answer a, b, c. for me, i know that the first thing i began to think about when i thought i wanted to write a novel was that i wanted to write about my culture. and because i had grownup in the chinese culture i wanted to
write about china. i wanted to find out more about myself because of i was raised in the bay area and because i didn't know culturally a lot of things i wanted to know. i knew i wasn't going to write about myself and knew that i was not going to write about my family. but i wanted to write about an aspect about china and women. those were the 2 things i knew when i began the first book. i was fortunate enough to it stumble upon the silk working women which gave me everything i wanted. it gave me the culture. it gave me a sense of what it meant to be a female chinese women in that time and a sense of empowerment on what they had done. regardless of what they understood they were doing at the time. they didn't know it was a culture that was earning money and living independent of husbands and family that was
doing everything against what it meant to be in the chinese culture. i hadn't heard about that and it was perfect. it was exactly what i was looking for. i can go off and preach about the fact they think so many of us asian american authors and asian authors in general tend to go back and write about our ancestors and write about things in our past not our specific past but may be of of ancestors and mothers and grand mothers. we have been telling their story. i think the generation to come, will be telling stories of living here. it will be different stories. but the oppression of our voices have been for so many, many years, if you think back the first writer who was read in terms of asian american was
maxine kingston. i read her in high school and was greatly affected by reading about the woman warrior. before her there were few. there were some but didn't make that economic splash. they were never read in a large way. maxine was the first one we read her in school we knew of her. she was not out there like anny tan was when she wrote the joy luck club. so much of it is timing. it meant all the history and the voices before then had been silent. my generation of writers came in and we heard stories of women and men and the family of a different generation. a lot of us had been writing about that because they were
silenced for so long. i am involved with the book prize. it's a pacific rim book prize in which books come from asia and all over the pacific rim. in the last 11 years it's been a prize we read so many books that have come from voices of new writers. i'm always amazed and they are writing different storers i wrote when i started. all the people have come through now. if you look at the list of indian and japanese authors and chinese authors it's now we are very much diverse. i think for a long time we weren't. i thank you for that question. if i keep going i will never get another question. [laughter]. >> thank you for samurai's
garden. i read it had it first came out and it's wonderful to be rereminded. >> thank you. and thank you for coming. you know jump off, i was samurai's garden, i said it was an energizer bunny. danville shoes samurai's garden the end of last year. they had the danville theatre which is a nice theatre and they were doing roamioand juliette and there was me in the middle of a balcony. it was a nice audience when i walked in my brain was exat that timic, look at the people here. it's almost as good as last
years. i said who did you choose last year. and the year before. and told me. i said do you realize they are dead already? >> i'm alive and shouldn't i pull in a little more? [laughter] to go off, thank you for coming. >> my pleasure. i just this month read your book dreaming water. and i was -- i'm very glad to have read it. i'm wondering 2 things. there seems to be more of an advocacy voice in terms of the discrimination of being you know an asian american. and secondly, warner's disease.
i'm wondering how you got into writing about that? and the characters were wonderful. >> okay. your first question, first. you know to be totally honest, when i sat down to write dreaming water i thought this is the book that -- i had finished language of threads and written 4 books that took place in asia. because language of threads was a hate this word, the seekial to women of the silk i felt i came full circle and my asia period might have been done i wanted to write a book that was contemporary and set in california. i knew i wanted to write a mother daughter story line. that's what i began with. it was the first time i said,
this character not necessarily has to be asian. none of these characters necessarily have to be asian. i was of mind opposite of what you are saying happened through the book. what happened was the more i started to research when i discovered warner's, ime wantedo write. i was feeling older as a person and wanted to translate that into a book. when i thought i would write about the care taking situation and wanted to write about a mother and daughter and i thought was there an aging disease? where children grow old quickly. by the time they are 7 or 8 they look like little old people because they age so quickly. the first thing i asked myself is there a version of this disease for older people.
does it start later in a person's life? as i'm researching i discover warner's syndrome and that's how it came to be that particular disease in the book. i thought this works because she would have a life before the disease started to age her in the 20's as opposed to being very young. more i researched the more i realized that a large population of japanese people seemed to have this genetic defect. it brought me back to the japanese culture even though i was not looking for it. what happened was if she was half japanese. here again you will hear the writing process. as i'm thinking about this and thinking about story line and her parents. if her mother is italian and